Almost a month ago, i put my paper work aside for a while at the office, to look for a nice room with the best internet connection, good sound and no one else around. It was Monday, a quite typical and bored one – like every Monday -. But there was something different that day: I had an interview with Mark Jansen (EPICA, MaYaN).
I prepared coffee for one and opened my notebook to check my long questionary. I crossed out a couple of questions and highlighted some others not to forget them. I also had my Skype session opened and checked the sound quality once more. At 15.35 a bubble appeared in my screen and we said hi to each other. More than 12.000 kms far away from my, Mark asked if I was ready for the interview; I didn’t have much time to think, the phone was already ringing.
By that time, in less than a month the new album Dhyana would be released, the third one in the Dutch band career. I had the chance to listen to the album in advance, and that’s one of the first things I told to Mark. We exchanged some early comments about this new material and I said that I was pretty anxious because everyone could hear what I had been able to.
Mark Jansen is passionate about his work, but mostly of all, he is charismatic. He received my compliments with joy and it felt like talking to a friend. He’s kind and gentle and that’s the reason why he has won the love of his followers over the years. I jumped into telling him my own experiences with the band and some old memories with all of the projects he has participated and I followed. Time flew fast, but I got back to MaYaN.
About Dhyana, the first thing I ask is about his feelings on the fans feedback. At that time two tracks had been released and one of them was the homonymous theme, which surprised us all for being a ballad. I was a bit impressed to know that he was the one who was reading the comments in YouTube. He was satisfied with the reactions so far. The critics were being extremely positive and that only gave more enthusiasm to the band and himself.
The other doubt that comes to my mind since MaYaN’s existence, is how do they do to coordinate so many bandmembers (currently, they are 13), every time they have a show. He admits that this is complex and that it has always been. In some opportunities they have had to manage so that with two or three members less, the band can work the same. And that would be the same scenario from here on, except that apparently there are big plans for the band with this new album.
Let’s think a little bit about the album cover, the name of the band itself and some of the melodies that we can hear in some tracks. Would you say this is a more “spiritual” album?
Oh yes, definitely, I totally agree, it’s much more than a spiritual album, but is not that kind of spirituality, where sometimes things go so far that you cannot follow it anymore. But it’s really down to earth topics that everybody is dealing with, and that everybody is looking for also answers to solve it. And I think in this lyrics are many things that people are struggling with, on daily basis, and that hopefully gives people some tools to look at problems in a different way, and solve them.
You made a crowdfunding campaign to be able to record this album with a live orchestra and give it this epic thing it deserved. How this idea came to life and what do you think about fans being so supportive.
Yeah, the idea came because we said “what can we do to make this album sound as good as possible?” And then we had a couple of things in the production , a couple of things in the mixing, a couple of things in the pre-production out to make the songs better. Then we said an orchestra would enrich the sound and would make the total sound much better. And then we came to the conclusion that we want to have an album sounding at least as good as the last Epica album, but with our budget we have to be very inventive, because compared to Epica we have a way smaller budget available, because MaYaN is a way smaller band (laughs). That we decided we still want to do this orchestra, but how can we make it happen with this small budget. And then we decided to do this crowdfunding campaign, and luckily became a big success, and we reached all of the goals and we could record on this way. But it was kind of a risk, because at a certain point in the middle of the campaign, we had to make a decision already, to record with the orchestra or not, because we had to say yes or no to them, because they couldn’t wait longer. So we already at the half of the campaign, we already said yes, and if we would have not made our goals, we’d had to pay all the rest of the money out of our own pockets (laughs).
Well, that’s quite a risk (laughs)
Yeah, as we went already out of budget by far, with all of the things outside of the orchestra, we had to pay already a lot of things out of our pockets, so with the orchestra we’d had come on top. We would have been now eating just bread and drinking water (he laughs).
It’s interesting to know how it works, because we may think that with the campaing running, you’d had to do it anyway (the orchestra recording), by paying out of your pockets, or maybe say yes to them and then not being able to pay them, so it’s cool to know how this kind of things work.
Yeah, because we were discussing half way, and some said “yeah, but if we don’t make it how we can do it”. And some were a bit afraid, but I said “now we made this choice, we have to go for it and there’s no way back, there’s no way we’re not gonna do this”. And luckily people believed in me and we said yes. And luckily we made it, otherwise, I’d had personally to explain the band members that…how it was possible that they believed me and it was not going to happen (we laughed).
Personally, sometimes I need to hear new albums more than once to get use to the sound, melodies or lyrics, and to decide if I like them or not. It also happened to me with MaYaN before. But Dhyana, is one of those albums where I just needed a quick glance to decide that I loved it! And to get some goosebumps as well! What happened to you when you heard the finished material?
I got the same thing; the first two albums contain quite some material, which is for the first time really hard to go through. We also notice when we play in festivals and people hears for the first time, that there’s some songs that is really hard to get a good opinion about. Then we decided when we worked on this third album, that we wanted to have more songs that when you hear them for the first time, you already like them. So it was a conscious decision to write this kind of songs, but of course is not easy because songs need to be very good, that people already, when they hear it for the first time think they’re good, but also when you hear them after plenty of time, they are still good. Because there are songs that when you hear them for the first time you like them, and the second time you like them the less and the third time you listen you are bored. That’s also a risk; we wanted to find the right balance between interesting songs that keep interesting after plenty of listening sessions, but also that when you hear it for the first time you already like it. And I think we found the right balance between that, but also when I hear the comments of people that heard the album, I get the strong feeling that we made it with that goal.
Yeah, I can say that it’s your best work far, what do you think about that? Do you think that is your best work?
I’ve always hated when bands say “yeah, our new album is the best”, and every band says that always. I stopped saying this kind of things myself. But what I know for sure is that this is the album where we worked way the hardest on, so, there was no album before that we spent so much time and energy on. And what I hear from the reactions so far is that it kind of grows as our best album so far. And that’s what we were aiming for, that’s what hopefully it’s gonna happen, but you will never hear me saying “this new album is our best album”, ever, I really stopped saying that (he laughs).
Yes, I normally get this kind of the reaction when I ask about this question. And I ask myself why, it’s not obvious! You may cherish the first album or any other. I think this is kind of an automatic answer from everybody.
Yeah, I’ve got to say that sometimes I start listening to an album of a band that says that, and then I’m even more disappointed (laughs). So, people have to judge for themselves and when they say “it’s by far the best album”, I will be very happy, but I will not say it myself.
You had already some female guests in your previous recordings as Floor Jansen and Simone Simons, and now you have Marcela Bovio as your permanent member. What can you say about the role that she and Laura Macrí have between all the heavy stuff?
Yeah, in this album Laura and Marcela had plenty space to shine, I also think that’s also one of the reasons why this album when you hear it for the first time already it’s easy to process. Because the choruses are pretty catchy, and Marcela is really great in writing vocal lines, so she writes this lines that get stucked in your head already after one listening, and I think that’s very important. And I think like this also, with having these girls in the band now as permanent members, now we really found our sound, and what we like to do also for the next album. This formula worked really well for us and we feel happy with it, and it feels like this is right, the right thing to do. So yeah, I expect for the next album this same kind of path that we’re working now.
Are you happy with the current line up?
Yeah, very happy indeed, this is really all people wanting the same thing, because we said before we were going to do this album “is very important to be dedicated, because we’re going to tour a lot with this album”. And everybody was really motivated, except from Henning Basse who said “I cannot confirm this because I’m also busy with other things”. And we said it’s completely fine, but then we cannot announce you as a permanent bandmember anymore because, people is gonna expect that people who is in the band also appears in the stage. Then we can invite Henning as a special guest, but he will also be on tour sometimes with Firewind and with other bands. We will see which shows Henning can be there and which shows he can’t. But he will be the special guest and the other bandmembers are fully in the band.
Mayan was born as a side project from you and some of the other guys. I think it doesn’t deserve that name anymore. What does the band mean to you right now?
Yeah, indeed, I also don’t call it a “project” anymore and also not a “side project”. Side project sounds to me like things that are given less attention than a main band. But now I consider Epica and MaYaN as two main bands, and I give both my full attention. That’s also why I’m happy with this year, that Epica is almost doing no shows and it gives me the opportunity to do all the shows that we possibly can take with MaYaN. And I think the band also really deserves to have now the chance to do many shows, because after Antagonise we could almost not do any shows, because Epica was playing full time. And now MaYaN will have the chance to show what is worth.
Are you already thinking about making a tour? What about to come to LatinAmerica?
We’re working on i,t so it’s definitely high in our wishlist, and I’m pretty sure it’s gonna happen. We just have to see when it’s gonna happen, because now I know that many promoters are waiting for the outcome of the new album, so they are waiting to see how popular the album is going to be. They say if the new album it’s gonna be received very well, we get an offer. So we still have to wait a bit now for the reviews to come out, and when reviews come out, then we go with the promotors and we will make a tour. So I’m like 95% sure that we can make it happen.
I will do a very nice review of the album so I hope it helps a lot! (laughs)
Every nice review will definitely help, so thank you very much (laughs).
(To read Dhyana’s album review made by Metaleros.cl, click here. Only spanish).
Any words for your fans in LatinAmerica and Chile specially?
Chi-chi-chi, le-le,le! (He laughs). I want to say that i always have an amazing time in Chile, and the last time with Epica and Vuur, from Anneke, that was really amazing, we had so many people at the venue and that was really heartwarming. Now, if we comeback with MaYaN, I hope that we get also a nice crowd. I know MaYaN is still bulding up but the more people that comes to see our show, the better, it will be a great party and then the promotor will be happy too (laughs). So I want to thank for all the support already, on everything I do since After Forever. And then with Epica we got even more support and now with MaYaN I get also many nice reactions from people from South America, so I’m a really thankful person and I cannot wait to be back.
It’s really funny because when MaYaN came to Chile, the first time, I was like a really poor student, so I couldn’t make it to the show, and now the only times that I have seen MaYaN actually, it was in the Netherlands. So is funny how the things change, for better I guess…so I really hope I can see the band playing in Chile. I hope it happens really soon…
Yeah, I must say about Chile…we have a promotor who was already thinking of getting us, we just need to convince the promotors in other countries in Latin America. So, Chile is already the first country where we can go actually (laughs), even without the reviews of the new album. But hopefully we can make this whole thing happen, because we need more shows that only Chile to make the tour financially working. So, we’re gonna work hard on it, like I said I’m 95% sure it will work out.
Mark, thank you very much for the time we spent, we hope to know from you very soon. Have a great evening!
Thank you; enjoy the rest of the day, bye!
Recently, MaYaN was announced to be playing in a new version of 70000 Tons of Metal metal fest. By far, this would be the first show of 2019 for the band.
Video for Saint’s Don’t Die
Interview by: Mónica C. Bórquez